Eradicating open defecation and improving access to sanitation are two keys to a sustainable future. India has the highest number of people defecating in the open in the world, amounting to nearly one third of our total population.
Despite being an emerging economy with huge potential, we are yet to eradicate open defecation. Nearly 65,000 tons of faeces are excreted in the open daily (yikes!), and this is prevalent in urban as well as rural areas. In the cities, open defecation in cramped areas can be explained by the lack of space and an unwillingness to keep public toilets clean. In rural areas, on the other hand, it’s rather a lack of infrastructure and increasingly poor sanitation that generally leads to the practice.
The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) launched on 2 October 2014, and has constructed 11.5 million toilets over the course of the past two years. An impressive 20+ districts in India are Open Defecation Free now, which is commendable, given the fact that there was not a single ODF district in the country before the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission. However, we still have over 650 districts which need to made ODF to meet India's commitment to pull the biggest number of people out of Open Defecation in human history.
Studies suggest that physical access to toilets is increasing by a whopping ten percent annually, but if the 2019 goal is to be attained, that rate must increase to 12 percent annually.
We have the power to bridge the knowledge gap and reduce unsanitary practices by spreading awareness and establishing hygiene systems across Indian districts. Together, we can take the first step towards an Open Defecation Free India by tweeting to the Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Narendra Tomar, and requesting that he help eliminate open defecation across districts. Let’s take the first step and set an example for the rest to follow.